Breast forms

I've gotten a few letters on the topic of breast forms recently, so I thought I'd share my experiences.

When I first began thinking about transitioning, I was especially concerned about body shape. Looking back now, I think I was a little silly to be so worried. My priorities in retrospect would have been very different: electrolysis, voice, and face, in that order. As I like to say, passing is primarily from the neck up.

Summary

  • I bought breast and hip padding and almost never used either. They really don't have much to do with your ability to pass.
  • I did not take hormones for about a year after I came out, because I was trying to negotiate transition parameters with my partner.
  • Buying breast forms was basically a stop-gap wish fulfillment measure, since by agreement I would not alter my body. I wanted to see what it would feel like, though.
  • If you want to get a sense of what size you'd like in advance of getting breast implant surgery, I recommend the old water balloon trick:
    • Get a light stretchy support bra (one with no underwires)
    • Fill water balloons to different capacities to see what seems right for your body type.
    • When you're done, carefully measure the water
    • Report the measurement to the surgeon. It will give them a better sense of what size you would like.
  • If you want them to look natural, there are more options than if you want them to feel natural. Birdseed and rubber fishing worms in bags are two popular options, with the worms feeling a bit better.Water and other liquids can leak if you aren't careful.
  • The most natural look and feel will come from silicone gel forms.
  • If you decide you really want silicone gel forms, you can try some on in a store with a fitter to get a sense of what size might look most natural for you, but unless you get good used ones for a big discount, I'd recommend buying a cheap pair like Curves or make your own as described in Bloo's FAQ below.

My professional fitting was a very positive experience, however. It was one of my earliest small triumphs in all of this. I was very nervous about how people would be, and it showed me what I've found to be true since. Most people, especially salespeople, are going to be pretty cool to you.


Primary info source

Bloo wrote a Breast Form FAQ a few years ago which has all the information you need to make a wise purchase. Bloo put a great deal of time and thought into the FAQ, and should be praised for all that effort! I recommend checking out Bloo's recipe for fishing worm breast forms for a cheap and realistic homemade set.


My experiences

[Note: I wrote the original version of this in 1996. I have modified it slightly in places, marked in the text.]

Fitting basics

I have tried to write this so that someone who has never even dressed could go into a store armed with the information necessary to make the purchase that's right for her needs.

For me, one of the excuses I've made for not purchasing many clothes was that I wanted to get my body proportions looking right and consistent. [At the time, I thought] that meant getting the right kind of hip padding and breast forms.

I wanted to get a professional fitting, so I looked into what information I should know going in. If you already have a size you like, they suggest bringing in a favorite bra. If you do not, you should at least do some preparation.

The first thing I determined was what would be the easiest clothing size for me to find. Since most clothing manufacturers size clothes roughly alike, I started with my waist as a constant. I'm about a 29" waist, so I looked on several mail-order catalog size charts and saw that typical proportions were about 38-29-40 for size 12 clothing.

They will do all of the measuring at the store, but it's better to go in with an idea of what you'd like so that you're not tempted to get forms that are too large (if passing is your goal). You should get a cloth tape measure and check your bust, ribcage, waist, and hips to see where you are now and then determine where you'd like to be.

Bras have two measurements: the bandwidth and cup size. To determine your bandwidth, simply put the tape measure around your ribs about an inch below your chest muscles. Hold the tape parallel with the floor, put your arms to your sides and take a medium-sized breath. The tape should be snug, but not tight. This is your bandwidth. The other measurement, cup size, is the difference between your bandwidth and the fullest part of your bust. It's designated by letters, so an A-cup is 1" more than your bandwidth, B=2", C=3", etc. Once you have your bandwidth, you simply need to determine what size you'd like to be. My bandwidth was 35, and I wanted to be a 38, which means I was looking for a C-cup. So 38C was my magic number going into the store.

[Interestingly, 38C is about where I ended up when I had surgical implants in 1998.]

My fitting

I [was] living as a male, and I definitely [did] not look very feminine yet. When I called for my appointment, I used my femme voice and asked a couple of questions, then I asked about scheduling a first-time fitting. They connected me with Sandy, their fitter. I told Sandy, "I should tell you that I am a transsexual, and out of respect for your other clients, I'd like to schedule a time when I would not cause other customers to feel uncomfortable." Sandy said that was not a problem, and that she could do the fitting in the bathroom, so we scheduled a low-traffic time of 4:00. She asked if I would be coming dressed, and I told her I would not be. I did wear a shirt that would give me a good idea of how I would look with the forms in place.

Having read Bloo's breast form FAQ, I had a pretty good idea of what I was interested in. Because I was planning on getting the attachable kind, I had shaved my chest very well and exfoliated. The breast form boutique was in the corner of a much larger lingerie store. I walked in and asked for Sandy, and we proceeded directly to the back of the store. She was very courteous and sympathetic. I had a lot of questions, and she answered all of them.

Everyone has different figure flaws to deal with. In my case, I'm just over 6'1" and weigh[ed] about 145, so I am thin enough to carry off a lot of looks. I had two problems to deal with: my height, which immediately makes me stand out, and my shoulders, which are very broad. I tried on several smaller form sizes, but I found I needed a larger size to make my shoulders seem more in proportion. I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm always going to look a bit like an American Gladiator or an East German swimmer, but there are worse things in life. Besides, Gabrielle Reese has two inches and about 25 pounds on me. And she's gorgeous!

One thing that was very helpful was that my fitter brought in a satin robe and had me put it on backwards to get a feel for how things would look. The best way to tell if the size is right is to cup underneath the forms and press your hands to your ribs with the thumbs up along the sides. You can check the drape by putting your hands on your chest right where the forms come to a point at the top.

I asked to see the attachable nipples, and while I doubt I'll use them much, I thought, "What the heck, they might be fun to put in for kicks now and then. They offer an adhesive with some brands, but that's probably unnecessary unless you plan on getting really crazy. Mine stay in place just fine with a little water. Plus, some adhesives can damage your forms, so be careful!

The whole process took about an hour. Sandy wished me well and gave me her card, and I thanked her most sincerely for her understanding and discretion. I also asked if it would be OK to refer others, and she said, "Of course." If your experience is a good one, I suggest you ask the same thing to pave the way for other transgender people who would also like a professional fitting.

One last thought: I had tried on forms at crossdresser's boutiques to see how they looked and felt, but I did not buy them there- they will totally rip you off! Better to take your chances with mail-order. You could save as much as 50%.

My final bill:

  • two attachable forms at $720.00 for the pair
  • attachable nipples $32.00 for the pair
  • a new bra at $20.00
  • tax brought me to $800.00 total

Afterword

I only wore my forms a few times, and only a couple of times in public. In retrospect, I think it was a waste of money for me. I could have gotten along fine with the $100 Curves type for my purposes.

Helpful hints for care and maintenance:

General

  • Remove all jewelry before handling your forms. The edges and stones of rings could damage the from. If you plan to wear a pin or brooch, put it on your clothes before putting your forms in place. So it goes without saying, do not wear the forms to receive your Congressional Medal of Honor!
  • You should wash your form every day you wear it. Use warm water and a very mild soap (I use unscented dish soap). DO NOT use soaps with perfumes or moisturizers- my fitter singled out Dove as an example of a bad soap to use. Putting a towel over the basin can protect your forms against damage if you drop them. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry.
  • Don't use perfumed deodorants. Even better, stick with anti-perspirants, as sweat can damage the form over time.
  • Putting your forms on while sitting on the floor or the bed can also protect them if one happens to slip.
  • The original boxes for my forms are designed to protect the form and help keep its shape.
  • You can wear your forms for pretty much any normal activity, but be careful around pets - their claws could puncture your forms through your clothing.
  • Putting a cotton make-up remover pad behind your form can help absorb perspiration during hot weather and strenuous activity.
  • You can sleep in your forms, but it's not recommended. Daydreaming in them is highly recommended, though!

Hints for attachable forms

  • With attachable forms, it's important your skin is clean and dry. They include an exfoliating creme which must be used prior to attaching skin supports.
  • Note a freckle or mark on the skin you can use as a guide when positioning the skin support.
  • It works best to put on the skin support at night and waiting until morning to put on the form. The heat from your body helps the attachment last longer.
  • The only bad news about these forms in my opinion is that the skin supports are NOT reusable. The replacement skin supports come in packs of five and cost approximately $24 for a pack of five.
  • If you are wearing something strapless or a swimsuit, you might find it helpful to attach the support while wearing the garment.
  • The brand I purchased comes with two varieties of skin supports: one with stronger adhesive than the other. The more adhesive kind is better for strenuous activity (clubbing, for instance!;)) The only trick is to be more careful when positioning the high-strength adhesive.
  • You can keep the skin supports on without the forms attached, and no one will be able to tell under an undershirt and a shirt or sweater. This way, you can get more use out of the supports if (like me) you work as a male but live as a female outside of work. You can even shower with the supports on, but make sure the support is thoroughly dry before attaching your forms.
  • The attachable forms do not have to be attached- they will fit in a regular bra, and they have a fuzzy velcro padding that covers the rough side of the velcro on the back of the breast form.
  • You will have some slight redness if you leave the skin supports on, so plan accordingly if you need to have your shirt off for whatever reason. I have found it tough to get all the adhesive off, so you might end up with some lint sticking to your skin as well.

An overseas reader writes:

In England there is a large discount company called Argos which has hundreds of large stores and a mail order service. In the Bras section of the Argos Additions catalogue you will find "Breast Enhancers" which are silicone gel breast forms, they cost £10 a pair, and look and feel (and bounce when running) very real.

Down side. They don't have a nipple and only come in two sizes. (increase by one cup size and Increase by 2 cup sizes)

They are made by "Close Things" (which also make bras etc) as these are made for genetic women they are mass produced, (big boobs are back in fashion over here) and they are of high quality (in spite of the low price).

I cant imagine why anyone would pay hundreds of dollars for something you can get so inexpensively (unless they dont know its available). They must be available in the USA as well.

Hope this info is of some help, and will save some people some money.

From a reader who used the bird seed method:

I found a way of making my own forms, in a way.  I started with a 38C, Playtex bra $7.00.  With the flax seed 1.99/lb I ended up with a very inexpensive alternative to breast forms.
 
The bra must be a dual layer cup.  I made a small slit in the top of the cup area near the strap on the inside, and inserted a funnel into the hole, and then I used about 2 and ≤ cups of flax seed in each side.  Once the seeds were in place I sewed the hole shut.  This allowed me to decide how big I wanted to be, and it also gives me a very realistic look.  I can’t go braless, but I can dress up, and have a very nice, weighted, and moving shape.
 
I now have 7 bras, 6 are 38C and the other is a 38G (for those really busty events) the biggest expense is the bra.  The seed is very affordable, and available, in the health food section of some grocery stores, including Fred Meyers. Each of my bras gives me a different look depending upon the style.
 
AND YOU CAN SLEEP IN THEM!!!
 
I hope that this can help someone, it has made a big difference for me.

From a reader:

First of all I want to say GREAT SITE :)

Second I wanna tell you about my idea for home made breast forms.

I saw something on using the gel out of ice packs a few years ago and thought that would be a great idea, I tried it out for a while and well the blue gel would shine through and make it look shocking. So I searched around for more ideas without any luck, until one day when shopping I thought I could make my own rubber forms.

I searched in and out of every rubber and art shop I could think of, asking for brush on rubber but was out of luck, I went home a little pissed at not finding it, then the real idea came to me....... LATEX.

At first I bought this brush-on Latex to use in a mould, but it was taking forever so I started playing around with it and thought of the old Ice-pack gel in the sandwich bags.

I poured the Latex into the bags much like the IPG and to my amazement the feel, weight and colour was right. The great thing about this was they bounced and looked amazing under any top, I wear Cami's a lot and no one can tell at all.

They're easy to make, easy to wear and because air doesn't get into them, they'll keep for a very long time, I'm on my 2nd lot in 18 months. Pouring can be a little hard at first and I would say wear gloves and old clothes while doing it, because I wrecked a great pair of jeans the first time. As long as the bag doesn't break (make sure the bag is inside out).

Another great thing with them is they heat up with your body temp.

I've found that you can also add colour to them just so you can match them up to your skin tone. I went out with this pair and got a brown paint from an art shop. I poured it into the tub (about litre) and mixed it to match my skin tone. Just pour a little at a time and you'll get it.

A reader writes:

The Breast Form Store (www.thebreastformstore.com) is the very best place I've found for great service and great products at reasonable prices. In 2001, I bought my first breastforms ( silicone ). Victor at the Breast Form Store was most helpful ( over phone ), to get me a great fitting. I bought non-attachable asymmetrical silicone forms... Transforms Classic Ones, size 10 ( the biggest at the time ) with a set of large positionable nipples, with a black Amoena 2115 Ava mastectomy (pocket) bra. The whole endeavor only cost about $210.00. -That is a great price! Later (years later), I bought the same 'forms in a newly available size 12 ( $169.00 ), and a bigger bra ( same brand/model, but a 46DD - $40.00 ) and even bigger nipples ....Perfect! ( by the way, these 'forms have their own areola & nips, although not very protruding ) I've still got the old ones, & the new 'forms, too. They've kept very well over many years... and I wear them 6-12 hours every day! ...just LOVE'm! I also have two sets of "sleep/travel" foam breastforms in an extra bra for when I go to bed. ( They work well enough ). Another tip: Take a 4" or 6" diameter uncoated "Nerf" ball and cut it in perfect halves to use as a "behind the 'form" size booster! Works GREAT!